Latest Casting Shenanigans: Tamara Braun Replaces Natalia Livingtson on DOOL

A mere few weeks after she debuted as Taylor, “Days of Our Lives” is replacing Daytime Emmy winning “General Hospital” alumna Natalia Livingston with Daytime Emmy winning “General Hospital” alumna Tamara Braun. Here’s where it gets really strange. Braun, best known as GH’s Carly #2, won her Emmy for playing the character of Crazy Ava Vitali on DOOL just two years ago.

I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I have not been impressed by Livingston in this role. (Nor, for that matter, did I like her as Emily on GH. It still chaps my hide that Livingston won a Daytime Emmy for the tole when the original Emily, Amber Tamblyn, was never even nominated.) She has given me no sense of Taylor’s personality, other than that she is a nice person. The character was only on the canvas for a short time in the 1990s when she was played by another actress, so I had little prior impression of who she was. All I remember about Taylor is that she was the saintly opposite of her sister Nicole, so saintly that she was shown attending bible study. According to this interview with Livingston, Taylor is supposed to be a savvy woman with an MBA, which seems to be the opposite of the impoverished damsel in distress that Livingston — and the writers – have shown us.

I was mystified by Taylor’s initial end of show cliffhanger scene with E.J. (James Scott) — in which they bumped into each other and stared at each other. I thought that there was supposed to be a flash of recognition, and that perhaps Taylor was only pretending to be a sweet girl who was down on her luck, and had actually spent the past few years attempting to fleece wealthy men. Instead, the dialogue in the next episode revealed that they were supposed to be experiencing love at first sight – though that seems jarringly out of character for dark, complicated E.J. Lust and intrigue I’d buy, but not the Disney fairytale that the show seems to be concocting. Given that Livingston seems to be the only actress on the show not to have instant chemistry with Scott – including not only the actresses who play E.J’s two major love interests Alison Sweeney and Arianne Zucker but his former fling/stepmother Lauren Koslow, I suspect that when DOOL’s producers saw the way that those scenes played out on air they may have decided to make a change.

Braun knows how to give characters an edge. In fact, both Ava and her “All My Children” character of Reese were villains. She has a proven ability to generate chemistry with both male and female romantic partners. From an acting perspective, this will definitely be an upgrade. On the other hand, Braun played an unrelated character on DOOL two years ago. Though Braun is a terrific actress who pulled off the daunting task of replacing Sarah Brown and winning over the vast majority of GH fans and managed to make the most of an underwritten psycho role during her last visit to Salem, this is going to be strange. Given how little the show gains from bringing back the insignificant character of Taylor, why not send her out of town again, then have a rehabilitated Ava fall head over heels for E.J.?

However, casting an actor who used to play another role on the show is not unprecedented in daytime, particularly on DOOL. Josh Taylor played Chris on the show during the 1980s before taking over the role of Roman in the late 1990s. Judi Evans played Adrienne during the 1980s, then became Bonnie in the 2000s, before again assuming the role of Adrienne a couple years ago. I find it jarring, and never bought Evans as Bonnie, but I understand why the show assumes the audience will accept it, particularly if Braun dyes her hair or otherwise alters her appearance from her last stint on DOOL. I’m sure the thinking is that her fan following is more important than whatever credibility problems bringing her back causes. I simultaneously applaud DOOL for quickly recasting an actor who was not gelling in a role and wonder why they didn’t cast one of the thousands of talented actors who have never appeared on the show.